Courtney Pieters judgment delayed by court hiccup

17 October 2018 - 12:42 By Philani Nombembe
Mortimer Saunders, the man who confessed to killing three-year-old Courtney Pieters and performing a sexual act on her corpse, in the Cape Town High Court on May 30 2018.
Mortimer Saunders, the man who confessed to killing three-year-old Courtney Pieters and performing a sexual act on her corpse, in the Cape Town High Court on May 30 2018.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

The much-awaited judgment in the murder case of three-year-old Courtney Pieters got off to a false start on Wednesday.

Self-confessed murderer Mortimer Saunders was set to hear his fate in the high court in Cape Town but Judge Pearl Mantame postponed her ruling to November 6.

Mantame had planned to deliver the judgment over three days but she said she had been posted to the motion court and did not want to disrupt her reading.

In May‚ Saunders confessed to killing Courtney with ant poison and committing necrophilia. In his plea explanation‚ he said: “I unlawfully and intentionally committed a sexual act with a corpse.”

Courtney was murdered in her home in Elsies River in May last year. Saunders was a tenant in her home at the time‚ and he was also friends with Courtney’s father‚ Aaron Fourie. The little girl was in the care of her six-year-old brother.

According to Saunders‚ she irritated him by waking him up because she wanted to watch television in his room.

“Irritated for having been woken a second time‚ and compounded by ill feelings between myself and her mother‚ I decided to give her ant poison‚” Saunders said.

He had bought the poison‚ which was in powder form‚ months earlier to repel ants in his room. He mixed it with water.

“Initially she did not want to drink it‚ but on telling her to do so she did‚” he said.

The incident received wide media coverage at the time. Then-president Jacob Zuma visited the family and said he was appalled at Saunders’ act.

“That a man who stays here can rape the child‚ kill the child in the bedroom… and break every bone to make the child fit in a plastic bag… it shows something has gone wrong with society‚” said Zuma.

At the time of his visit‚ 14 people had died in a single gang-related shooting incident in the neighbourhood and nearly 70 children had been murdered in the Western Cape.

Community members who were at court on Wednesday were disappointed with the delay in the judgment. Chryster Arendse said the community needed closure.

“I am very upset‚ we waited for a month and we thought we could finally get closure today‚” said Arendse. “We would like to hear Mortimer say why he did what he did with his own mouth. We are still shocked because he was friendly with everyone in the community.”

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